Ahmadinejad, Erdogan to Discuss Energy Deals

A2313123110.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will meet Friday Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on the second day of his visit to the neighboring country.

Iran and Turkey will continue to discuss further cooperation in the energy sector, the countries said Thursday.

Ahmadinejad early on Friday attended the Iranian-Turkish Business Council meeting in Istanbul’s Ciragan Palace together with President Abdullah Gul.

The meeting at Ciragan focuses on economic and commercial relations between Iran and Turkey.

Ahmadinejad will also visit the Topkapi Palace and perform the Friday prayer at the famous Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque. He will depart from Turkey later in the day.

The Iranian president met with Gul on Thursday to discuss bilateral ties, including the enhancement of an energy partnership, and Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran and Turkey will continue to discuss further cooperation in the energy sector, a joint statement from the two leaders said on Thursday, after the two countries failed to sign an energy deal on a gas pipeline.

The officials from both sides signed agreements on some other issues, such as transportation, tourism and environment, as well as the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism.

Iran and Turkey agreed in May to build a new gas pipeline to ensure a reliable supply to Turkey. Ahmad Noorani, an official at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, said last week the deal could be signed during the visit.

The statement said Iran and Turkey held various meetings and signed several documents in 2007-2008 as being aware of the importance of energy sector in their economic development.

“Parties have reiterated at the highest level their desire on further developing projects and activities in the framework of their ongoing cooperation in the fields of natural gas and electricity.

“In this framework, they have exchanged views and information on various energy projects being carried out to the benefit of both countries and agreed to support the projects, as one of the options, that would make possible the transportation of natural gas from neighboring Iran to Turkey through Iranian territory,” the statement said.

“Iran and Turkey have also noted with satisfaction and expressed their support for the ongoing studies performed by their relevant competent institutions and authorities and progress achieved in this respect on the improvement of the electricity interconnections and electricity trade between their countries as well as the construction of hydro and natural gas power plants,” it added.

Turkey favored a diplomatic solution to the problem regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Gul told Thursday a joint press conference with Ahmadinejad after their meeting.

“The solution should take into consideration the uneasiness of the international community as well as protecting Iran’s legitimate rights within the scope of the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“We expect the negotiation process to continue with the good will of all parties… and reach a positive outcome in a short term,” Gul said, pledging Turkey’s assistance to help the negotiations.

Iran is open to dialogue to resolve the standoff on its nuclear program, but will not give up its right to possess atomic energy, Ahmadinejad told the Thursday’s conference.

“We believe that dialogue is the best way to resolve the issue and we are always ready for dialogue,” he said. But negotiations had to take into account Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy technology, he added.

“Those who do not respect that will lose themselves. There will be no change in the will of the Iranian people,” said Ahmadinejad.

Western powers suspect Tehran’s nuclear program is a cover for the development of atomic bombs, but Ahmadinejad said the allegations were a reflection of Washington’s “ill will” towards Tehran.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Tehran says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Observers believe that Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

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